May 25, 2000
KATIE HYUN-JUNG CHUNG, PETITIONER,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS, BOARD OF ACCOUNTANCY, RESPONDENT.
Before Wagner, Chief Judge, Ruiz, Associate Judge, and Pryor,
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ruiz, Associate Judge
Petition for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Board of Accountancy
(Argued February 24, 1999 Decided May 25, 2000)
The District of Columbia Board of Accountancy (Board) denied Katie Hyun-Jung Chung's application for a permit to practice public accounting in the District of Columbia. In her petition for review, Ms. Chung contends that the Board abused its discretion in determining that she failed to satisfy the statutory and regulatory experience requirements necessary to obtain an accounting permit. At issue is the Board's specification of the audit and accounting components of the two-year experience requirement under D.C. Code § 2-114 (a). *fn1 We conclude that the Board's specifications are authorized by the statute and reasonable, and affirm the Board's determination that Ms. Chung did not satisfy the experience requirement with respect to the period 1990-1992. We remand for a determination whether Ms. Chung fulfilled the necessary requirements during the period 1994-1996.
On August 26, 1994, Ms. Chung applied for a permit to practice public accounting in the District of Columbia. *fn2 It is undisputed that Ms. Chung was a supervisor in the Budget and Analysis section within the Department of Bus Services of the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) from May 1988 to September 1994. *fn3 In this capacity, she was instrumental in developing the "Automated Contract Drawdown System," a unified accounting system which tracks annual contract expenditures for the Department of Bus Services. *fn4 Additionally, Ms. Chung performed various accounting, budgeting, auditing and management information systems duties as assigned. In September 1990, Ms. Chung began performing internal auditing work in addition to her regular duties in the bus services department. *fn5 By August 1992, she had completed 562 hours of auditing work under supervision of WMATA's Assistant Auditor General. *fn6 In September 1992, she began working as a supervisor of parking operations within WMATA's Department of Rail Services where she was responsible for accounting for daily parking revenues, compiling financial data and producing revenue reports. *fn7 After reviewing Ms. Chung's work history, the Board denied her application for a permit on the ground that she did not have the required accounting and auditing experience. *fn8
Ms. Chung argues that the Board erred in finding that her work history did not satisfy the two-year experience requirement of D.C. Code § 2-114 (a). This court will uphold an agency decision if it flows rationally from the facts and is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. See District of Columbia Preservation League v. District of Columbia Dep't of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, 711 A.2d 1273, 1275 (D.C. 1998); Reneau v. District of Columbia, 676 A.2d 913, 917 (D.C. 1996). We review an agency's legal determinations de novo, but will defer to the agency's interpretation of a statute it administers if it is reasonable and in accordance with legislative intent. See Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. District of Columbia Dep't of Employment Servs., 683 A.2d 470, 472-73 (D.C. 1996).
Under the D.C. Code, the Board of Accountancy shall issue public accountancy permits to certified public accountants who have demonstrated at least two years of auditing and accounting experience. See D.C. Code § 2-114 (a)(3) (1994 & 1997 Supp.). *fn9 The relevant Board regulations further stipulate that an applicant
shall have been engaged in the full-time practice of accounting during regular business hours for the full period specified. The Act does not contemplate a single engagement as an accountant or auditor nor incidental accounting work done in addition to other duties as sufficient for purposes of this requirement. 17 DCMR § 2504.1 (1990). Further, the regulations require each applicant to show "to the satisfaction of the Board that his or her experience included at least five hundred (500) hours" of auditing work. *fn10 17 DCMR § 2504.4.
A. The Board's interpretation of 17 DCMR § 2504
The crux of this case is the Board's interpretation of 17 DCMR § 2504.4. While the analysis contained in the Board's April 1, 1997 Decision and Order is scant at best, it is apparent from the record that the Board understands the two-year "full-time practice of accounting" requirement of § 2504.1 to include the 500 hours of auditing experience outlined in § 2504.4. *fn11 Ms. Chung argues that the Board abused its discretion in reaching this conclusion, but the plain language of the regulation supports such an interpretation. To satisfy the § 2504 "experience requirements," an applicant must show that she has engaged in at least two years of "full-time accounting." D.C. Code § 2-114 (a); 17 DCMR § 2504.1. Additionally, § 2504.4 requires each applicant to show that her "experience" includes at least five hundred hours of auditing work. This language allowed the Board to decide that the required five hundred hours of auditing work is to be part of the two- year experience requirement, rather than a separate component. *fn12 It is the Board's responsibility to regulate "persons practicing and professing expertise in accountancy in the District." Kingsley, supra note 12, 657 A.2d at 1145; see also D.C. Code § 2-101 (purpose behind chapter is to ensure that applicants "demonstrate their ability and fitness to observe and apply the standards of the accounting profession"). *fn13 The Board has chosen to favor an integrated two year experience, where an applicant gains simultaneous expertise in both accounting and auditing, rather than an experience in which accounting and auditing skills are obtained piecemeal. "Where an administrative agency is delegated broad authority to administer a statutory scheme, this court defers to the agency's interpretation of the statute if it is reasonable." *fn14 Kingsley, supra note 12, 657 A.2d at 1145-45 (citations omitted). We, therefore, defer to the Board's interpretation of 17 DCMR § 2504.4 as requiring that the 500 hour auditing component be performed as part of the two year accounting experience requirement. *fn15
B. Substantial evidence review.
In the alternative, Ms. Chung contends that the Board erred in determining that her work between September 1990 and August 1992, the period during which she performed over 500 hours of auditing work, did not satisfy the § 2504 experience requirements. Although Ms. Chung admits that she was not engaged in the full-time practice of accounting throughout the time that she was employed as a supervisor in the Department of Bus Services, *fn16 she claims that if her regular and additional duties are viewed together, the work she performed between September 1990 and August 1992 engaged her full-time in audit and accounting duties. To support this claim, she states that her work as project leader in developing the "Annual Contract Drawdown System" (ACDS) involved full-time accounting duties. Ms. Chung also suggests that, while working as project leader on the ACDS project, she obtained 562 hours of internal audit experience on a "collateral basis." *fn17
While the record reflects that Ms. Chung performed accounting work on the ACDS project and that she obtained 562 hours of internal auditing experience, this work was not all performed at the same time. Ms. Chung was the ACDS project leader from early 1989 until late 1990, see supra note 4, but did not begin her audit work until September 1990. Even assuming that she was engaged in the full-time practice of accounting as the ACDS project leader, *fn18 and assuming further that she performed specific auditing tasks during the last four months of the ACDS project, the record shows that Ms. Chung did not satisfy the 500 hour auditing requirement until August 1992, twenty months after the ACDS project was completed and she no longer performed full-time accounting duties. *fn19 Additionally, while Ms. Chung obtained 562 hours of auditing experience between September 1990 and August 1992, this work was not full-time and did not involve preparing and analyzing financial statements, as required by §§ 2504.1 and 2504.4 (d). Therefore, the Board did not abuse its discretion in denying Ms. Chung's application because she was unable to show a total of two years of simultaneous accounting and auditing experience as required by the regulations.
Finally, Ms. Chung claims that while employed as WMATA's Supervisor of Parking Operations between October 1994 and September 1996, she met the statutory and regulatory experience requirements of D.C. Code § 2- 114 (a) and 17 DCMR § 2504. This claim was included in the proposed findings of facts and conclusions of law, with references to the hearing transcript and exhibits, that Ms. Chung submitted to the Board. The Board's 1997 order does not specifically address Ms. Chung's post-1994 work experience, stating only that Ms. Chung had held the parking operations position since September 1994. We note that, at the hearing, Ms. Chung's counsel argued that her accounting duties between October 1994 and September 1996 met the § 2504.1 "full-time practice of accounting" requirements, without specifying whether this work satisfied all of the § 2504 experience requirements. On remand, the board should make specific findings with respect to both the "full time practice of accountancy requirement" and the number of hours that Ms. Chung performed auditing work during this period.
Accordingly, the Board's denial of Ms. Chung's application for a permit to practice public accountancy based on the period for 1990 to 1992 is affirmed. We remand for further consideration of Ms. Chung's petition with respect to the 1994-1996 period.